The Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Ras Baraka, has released a powerful spoken-word piece demanding social justice.
The new video for “What We Want,” features the Mayor and a microphone. Dancers with face paint reminiscent of characters in the movie “Dead Presidents”, also express his words through dance.
The song is the title track to his 2019 EP.
“We want to praise our own God/And we want to see his reflection in our children’s eyes,” he declares. “We want to draw him blue/Like jazz/With long dreads/And thick lips.
“Free housing,” “quality education,” “equal pay” and more written are written across their cheeks. “We need freedom,” Baraka says. “Not just the bill of rights/But rights to build our own lives.”
“What We Want” was produced by Jerry “Wonda” Duplessis, known for his extensive work with Wyclef Jean. The video was directed by Ayana Stafford-Morris and produced by Udi Aloni.
However, its all Jersey as it features Baraka onstage at Newark Symphony Hall. His only accompaniment, a bongo drummer.
A Continuation Of The Work
The song was inspired by the slogans used by organizations during the civil rights movements of the Sixties. In addition, the song continues the work of his famous activist father, Amiri Baraka.
Amiri Baraka was a poet and playwright that channeled the rage of people of color into art. His wisdom and passion for recording the black experience in America were considered incendiary at the time. As one of the major forces in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and ’70s, Baraka and others sought to duplicate in fiction, poetry, drama, and other mediums the aims of the black power movement in the political arena.
“It is from the perspective of how I was feeling,” Baraka said to Rolling Stone. “What would I want if I was in a position to make demands and what would those demands be? Is it freedom, justice, equality?
“The message is more relevant now with the unrest in the black community and the protest around equality and justice,” he tells Rolling Stone. “We need more than justice in the moment — we need an overhaul of our systems. This is our opportunity as a people and world citizens to address the root of the larger issues that affect all our communities and the injustices that we deal with.”
Baraka is harnessing the power of the media as the title track is also the theme song to the upcoming documentary “Why Is We Americans?” co-directed by Stafford and Aloni.
The film chronicles the Baraka family’s social activism and poetry and premieres at the Lighthouse International Film Festival on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, on June 16th in drive-in format.